DENTON, Texas - After so many heart-breaking losses this year, the North Texas women's basketball team suddenly finds itself in possession of a win streak - and within half a game of first place in the Sun Belt's West Division.
Saturday night at the Super Pit, North Texas seized command in the opening minutes, never relinquished control, and rolled to a 79-51 win over Louisiana-Monroe, registering their first win streak of the season.
"I was very happy with the effort," North Texas coach Mike Petersen said. "Especially in light of the face we had some unusual rotations without Dez (Desiree Nelson, who missed the game due to a death in her family). I thought the kids did a nice job of battling through being a player down."
Senior guard Laura McCoy took up much of the scoring slack with a career-high 20-point performance, matching a season-high with four three-pointers. The inside combination of Sara Stanley and Alexis Hyder, meanwhile, poured in 26 points, and Loryn Goodwin was also in double figures for North Texas with 12 points.
"We made a few shots early," Petersen said. "There's no one in our league that's better than us when we shoot well."
Defensively, North Texas held ULM (2-12, 0-5) to 32 percent shooting from the field and forced 25 turnovers.
"Our defensive package is bothering people," Petersen said. "We can give them enough different looks that they don't get comfortable, and we give enough pressure and trap looks that they're trying to figure out where it's going to come from. This team has evolved into a zone-trap team, and we really bothered ULM tonight."
The win, coming on the heels of Wednesday's 87-71 victory over Troy, sends the Mean Green's conference record to 3-2 and keeps North Texas a half game back of Sun Belt West-Division leader Arkansas-Little Rock, which the Mean Green faces Wednesday in Little Rock.
"The funnest thing ever is playing meaningful, relevant games in your conference in January and February," Petersen said. "Wednesday we're going to play a meaningful, relevant game. We'll be prepared and we'll play hard."
North Texas (4-10 overall) sustained eight losses this year by an average of four points, but the difficult lessons learned in the first half of the season continued in evidence Saturday in back-to-back blow-out wins and strong performances.
North Texas took immediate control of the game and was never seriously threatened by ULM, answering every Warhawk challenge with pressure defense (forcing 15 first-half turnovers) and excellent ball movement (11 first-half assists) that resulted in solid scoring opportunities. The Mean Green made the most of those chances, hitting 64.3 percent of their shots in the opening half, including five of eight from three-point range.
The Mean Green was up 14-2 three minutes into the game, a lead that leveled out briefly before growing to 21 points late in the half, then settling at 44-27 at halftime. McCoy ignited the offense for North Texas with three three-point field goals and 11 first-half points, while Goodwin added nine and Stanley and Hyder had eight points each.
ULM never posed a serious threat in the second half.
With her four three-pointers Saturday, McCoy pulled into a tie on the team's all-time three-point field goal list with 97 career threes. McCoy is tied with Delaine Taylor, and is 15 threes behind third-place Brittney James.